5 September 2020
Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2 Kunlun Red Star 1
The opening game of the Dragons’ season always promised to be a tough test. Not only did Alexei Kovalev’s new-look team have to take on one of the traditional powerhouses of the Eastern Conference, it would do so while still getting used to an all-new line-up. Traditionally on the opening day, we like to point out the new players on the team. This year, that made up all but two of Kovalev’s selection. Among the skaters, only Denis Osipov and Andrei Maximov had played for Red Star before; on the bench, goalie Alexander Lazushin was available to make it three familiar faces if called upon to replace Dmitry Shikin.
Shikin, who joins us from Sochi, was in action early in the game, making a smart stop to deny Harri Pesonen early in the game. It was the start of a busy evening, that would see our goalie make 33 saves. Almost immediately, our efforts had to be focused on defense. First, Anton Glinkin picked up a high-stick penalty, a double minor. The Red Star PK looked composed under pressure, but then found its task made that much harder when Yegor Dugin was called for hooking. Ninety seconds of 5-on-3 play still offered little for Magnitka to celebrate and midway through the frame the teams were back on an equal footing with the scoreboard still blank.
Red Star was still playing very much on the counter-attack, and Maximov almost made that pay when he got away from Sergei Plotnikov and went through on the net. Vasily Koshechkin snuffed out the chance, though. And Plotnikov made a more incisive contribution at the other end late in the session, opening the scoring on yet another power play when he fired home Maxim Karpov’s feed from behind the net.
The second period saw a little bit more of Red Star as an attacking force. Glinkin did well to fashion a shooting chance for himself early on, Alexander Kitarov also tested Koshechkin. As the midway point approached, the Dragons got their first power play of the season. True, it generated little to trouble Koshechkin, but the veteran goalie was at his best soon afterwards when a scrimmage in front of his net saw the shots flying in on goal.
Metallurg remained dangerous, though, and on a late power play Shikin had to be alert to keep us in the game. Even when Andrej Nestrasil did get a shot past our goalie, the post kept our goal intact and the third period began with just one goal separating the teams.
Three consecutive power plays came and went for the Dragons at the start of the third, but scoring chances remained elusive. Our guys looked threatening in the final third, but struggled to turn good positional play into good looks at Koshechkin’s net. Back at full strength and midway through the final session, Dugin flashed a shot narrowly wide as the puck rattled around the Metallurg crease, and moments later the home team responded with Andrei Chibisov dinging one off the piping.
It was starting to look like a one-goal game, but another penalty for Dugin gave Metallurg the chance to wrap up the win. Our old friend Taylor Beck had a big hand in the goal; he fired the puck in from the right-hand circle and Pesonen got the final touch to put it past Shikin.
That wasn’t quite the end. There wasn’t enough time for Red Star to save the game, but there was at least the consolation of our first goal of the season. Ruslan Pedan claimed it, after a video review, with the last shot of the game, firing it home just before the siren to make the final score 1-2.